Adobe upgrades Flash and AIR

Adobe Systems will offer on Tuesday beta versions of upgrades to its core Flash Player and Adobe AIR technologies, with Adobe touting mobile device accommodations for the Flash Player.

The two products include Flash Player 10.1 and AIR 2. Designers and developers can build rich Web content for the browser when running the Flash Player and for the desktop when using Adobe AIR, Justin Everett-Church, senior product manager for Adobe Flash Player, said. Final releases of Flash Player 10.1 and AIR 2 are expected in the first half of 2010.

Adobe officials stressed mobile capabilities planned for Flash.

“As we are bringing Flash Player to multiple devices, this is the first beta release,” said Tom Barclay, Adobe senior product marketing manager for the Flash platform.

“What we’re announcing now is really the full Flash Player. Everything that the full Flash Player can do on the desktop we trying to take over to a mobile device,” Everett-Church said.

Adobe’s Flash Lite software, which features a subset of Flash Player capabilities, will continue for some feature phones, Barclay said.

An analyst saw Adobe’s AIR and Flash Player moves as a competitive response to technologies such as Microsoft Silverlight. “I think Adobe is a first mover in this space and is trying to maintain its lead in the face of increasing competition,” said analyst Ray Valdes, of Gartner.

“They’re trying to basically create one version of the software, a common foundation across different platforms including desktop and mobile,” Valdes said.

The Flash Player 10.1 browser runtime is based on efforts of the Adobe-driven Open Screen Project to provide a Flash-based unified runtime environment for devices. Version 10.1 features media delivery using HTTP streaming and content protection from Adobe Flash Access 2.0. Also, version 10.1 can leverage hardware decoding of H.264 video on Windows PCs and devices, thus conserving battery life and offering smoother video playback, Adobe said.

Flash Player 10.1 features availability for a range of devices, including smartphones, netbooks, and other Internet-connected devices, Adobe said. Content can be delivered across different OSes and devices. Also, SWF files can be deployed on devices with limited processing power.

For developers, a global error handler in AIR 2 and Flash Player 10.1 enables development of a single handler to process runtime errors that were not part of a try/catch statement. “This is a feature that’s going to make developers more productive by more easily being able to find errors that are happening within their application,” Everett-Church said.

AIR 2, for offline running of Web applications, offers enhanced support for mass storage devices, native application processes and peer-to-peer and UDP (User Diagram Protocol) networking, Adobe said. Users also can open a document within an AIR application, and performance is improved as well.

An updated version of the WebKit HTML engine in AIR 2 features a faster JavaScript engine. HTML5/CSS3 (Cascading Style Sheets) 3 capabilities are in AIR 2, too. The local microphone access API in AIR 2 enables recording of audio locally, which benefits applications running in a disconnected mode, Adobe said. Improved socket support in AIR 2 enables development of local servers and lightweight P2P applications. Adobe at some point plans to enable AIR to run on devices.

“What’s happening now is in the process of bringing Flash Player 10 features and eventually AIR features as well to mobile, we are now working on a single code base and single environment,” said Aaron Filner, Adobe group product manager for Adobe AIR.

Both AIR 2 and Flash Player 10.1 support multitouch and gesture-based applications on touch screen devices. The beta releases are available as free downloads from Adobe Labs. Flash Player 10.1 runs on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux desktop platforms and x86-based netbooks. Devices supported include Android, Windows Mobile, Palm webOS, and Symbian S60. The AIR 2 beta is offered for several Windows OSes, including Windows 7, as well as for Mac OS and Linux.

A public beta release of Flash Player 10.1 for Palm webOS is due later this year, with Google Android backing to follow in 2010. 

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